Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: “Attack the Light” The Steven Universe RPG

Guest review by Chris Chinn

This review was funded through a partnership with ArsenalForDemocracy.com

“Attack the Light” is a mobile game on Android & iOS, going for $2.99.  It’s about 4-5 hours of casual RPG gameplay with great production quality.  If you’re a Steven Universe fan, it’s a fun game worth checking out. (For those not familiar, Steven Universe is a Cartoon Network show in its second season.)

First off, the big disclaimer: the in-game story is pretty non-existent.  You get about all the depth of a 10-minute filler episode from Steven Universe stretched over several hours of gameplay.  So if you’re coming to this looking for lore and character development, you’re not going to get it.  If you’re here to see Garnet rocket-punch monsters – and that’s enough for you – you’ll have a great time.

You have turn-based play, with a timing-based setup for attacks and defenses - tap the screen at the right time, you do extra damage or you block most of the damage, respectively.   This is a game mechanic that was first brought to us on the Super Mario RPG back in the days of Super Nintendo and has seen occasional use in other games. It remains a great, if under-utilized, setup for a lot of RPGs – and keeps it fun and engaging.

Unlike the usual JRPG setup where each character gets 1 action, the game instead gives your team a number of Stars every turn, which you spend to use actions from any of the Gems or Steven himself.  This actually sets up some interesting choices: do you do a single big attack, do you do several small ones? Which attacks are best suited to the types of enemies you are fighting?  Should you break the armor of the tough guys first, or clear out the small support monsters?   You can also save some unspent Stars for the next round, allowing you to pull off bigger attacks or waves of heavy hits.

The other fun tactical element is that a Gem has to have a certain amount of health (“Harmony”) to use their big attacks. If they’re too hurt or weak, your special moves will be locked out.  This forces you to pay attention to defense as well as offense; you want to be well healed up between and during fights.  

There’s a few bits of character building: each level you can pick from 3 different options to upgrade the Gem in question – a better special attack, improve stats, and so on.  Each Gem also can equip “badges” – the usual JRPG accessory that gives you stat boosts or special modifiers on your attacks or defenses.

The maps are simple but clean.  There are a few hidden objects that just require you pay attention, and a few combination puzzles which only require that you write down the solution on the map when you run across it.  

The production quality is pretty great.  The simplified character designs fit very well with the Steven Universe art from the show, and the voices and music are high quality as well.  Most of the dialogue is text box, but the characters have many phrases from the show used to highlight certain things like finding secret rooms, or leveling up.  The animation is fun and the controls are pretty great for touchscreen gaming.

All in all, I give this a 3.5 out of 5.  The game is a fun game, and easily worth the cost, but it lacks the usual lore building and character development bits you’d usually get in a Steven Universe TV episode - which is the part that hurts it.  As I played through, I realized you could have slapped any other characters from any other comic, cartoon, or TV series and you’d pretty much only change the labels to a lot of the mechanics in play.

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